International Rescue Committee (IRC)

Fresh Fund

What is the Fresh Fund?

Fresh Fund is a farmers’ market incentive program that leverages the purchasing power of SNAP and WIC dollars to support local farmers and increase access to healthy, fresh foods to under-served communities.

Residents enrolled in CalFresh/SNAP (the food stamp program), Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), or Supplemental Security Income (SSI/Disability) may sign up for Fresh Fund at participating farmers’ markets that are EBT-accessible.

Support the Fresh Fund 2013 with a financial contribution.  

Fresh Fund Growth

The Fresh Fund was launched in 2008 as a pilot program to test the effectiveness of incentive programs in bolstering sales at farmers’ markets and increasing the consumption of fresh foods among low income consumers.  The City Heights Farmers’ Market (CHFM) became one of only a few programs nationally to “match” the use of SNAP (food stamps), WIC or Senior Farmers’ Market coupons, or cash from SSI/Disability recipients. 

By 2011, the Fresh Fund had grown to serve more than 8,000 residents at 5 farmers’ markets in San Diego County.  Revenue generated at these 5 markets topped $1.6 million of which approximately $350,000 were incentive dollars (furnished by a grant from the Center for Disease Control to the County of San Diego).


Program outcomes have been staggering—particularly at the City Heights Farmers’ Market—when compared to farmers’ markets on the national stage. The following national statistics are taken from the Agricultural Marketing Service 2006 Farmers' Market Vendor Survey.

  • Annual income for the CHFM was more than double the national average for farmers’ markets. (National average $243,000; CHFM $522,291).
  • SNAP sales at the CHFM are more than 20 times the national average (National $279/mo.; CHFM $6,092/mo). 
  • The race/ethnicity of farmers’ market vendors at the national level is 89% white and 11% non-white; farmers at CHFM are 3% white and 97% non-white.

These numbers are particularly poignant when reflected upon individual vendors.  Average farm vendor revenue at the CHFM was $47,000 in 2011.  Fewer than 6% of vendors at the national level gross between $25K and $100K annually.  Further, the top selling farmer at the CHFM grossed more than $122K in 2011.  Fewer than 1% of farmers’ market vendors nationally gross over $100,000 per year.  The same farm also created 8 new jobs as a result of their market sales, pointing to the broad impacts such programs can have on individual businesses and the broader economy.

Within approximately 2 square miles of the City Heights Farmers’ Market is a population that spends $190 million on food  (grocery) purchases  annually (source:  Chollas Triangle Master Plan, Table 5, pg. 53). In 2011, the same community spent $522,291 at the CHFM. Imagine if programs like the Fresh Fund could help expand this support to 5% of food purchases.  What could be the economic impact of $9.5 million be on our farmers? On the health of consumers?  On the overall state of the local economy? 

The Fresh Fund has illustrated that incentive programs work in increasing sales at farmers' markets.  It has also proven to be an essential program for the launch and sustainability of farmers' markets situated within low income communities, where a high concentration of federal food benefit recipients reside.   A study by the Institute for Public Health at San Diego State University will be released in 2012 that further examines these impacts, as well as the broader influence on individual and community health. Many across the country, including our national legislators, have been keeping an eye on San Diego’s Fresh Fund’s success to advocate for the support of inventive programs in the Farm Bill.

In the meantime, San Diego is not just celebrating its success but active planning for Fresh Fund’s future here on the ground. Fresh Fund will undergo some program changes in 2012 to promote greater program sustainability and replicability across San Diego. Stay tuned for more details about the next exciting phase of Fresh Fund in San Diego.

Fresh Fund Participant Testimonial

Interview of a Fresh Fund participant who is a 32 year old Latina shopper, WIC recipient, and mother of 3 children.

What does the Fresh Fund program mean to you?
Wow, for me it has meant a lot, it has been such a big help in both economic and nutrition aspects. I have changed the way I think about our diet. I was looking for help since my husband was diagnosed with high blood cholesterol and pre-diabetes. Here I started to see fresh produce; the children are more motivated to eat healthy and my husband who never liked veggies is eating them now. I tell them the produce is fresh which makes it better than the super market [produce], their view has also changed about produce. So, it has benefited me so much.

What do you like the best about the coming to the farmers’ market?
Well, the same. The freshness of the produce. Coming here also, the environment. I feel there are people looking for the same interests and it makes me feel good. Today I am making better choices, I am buying fresh fruits.  


Due to the end of the Healthy Works grant from the County of San Diego, the IRC has had to phase out Fresh Fund. However, with new limited grant funding, the IRC is now able to restart City Heights Fresh Fund in April 2012 but we still need more Fresh Fund incentive “match dollars” to complete the year. With Fresh Fund 2.0, the program will be limited to six months for participants with additional incentive funding coming from farmers’ stall fees. As more Fresh Fund “customers” are encouraged to shop at the market, farmer revenue increases and stall fees become a sustainable source of match funding! 

About $50,000 will pay for one Fresh Fund program to operate for 12 months, including incentive match dollars, program equipment and part-time Fresh Fund coordinator (16 hrs/week). If IRC can secure $100,000, then we’ll be excited to open a second Fresh Fund operation, preferably at the Linda Vista Farmers’ Market!

Support the Fresh Fund 2013 with a financial contribution.  

Click here to learn more about the Food Security and Community Health Program.

For more information, contact Anchi Mei,
IRC’s Food Security and Community Health Program Manager or +1 619 641 7510 ext. 234

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